A note to future study-abroaders
As I’m preparing to tragically abandon this crazy/amazing city within the next week, I know that some people are just getting ready to come abroad. So I thought I’d make this post about my advice/the things I’ve learned while in London for a semester — First of all though, everyone is going to tell you something different. Every person that I talked to before coming abroad had some sort of insight as to what it would be like and what I should do to prepare. The first thing I’m going to tell you about coming abroad is that no one knows what it is going to be like. No one can tell you every single thing that you’ll need/experience/miss while you’re here. All I’m attempting to do here is to tell you some of the things that I wished that I had known or thought of before I left. I am in so respect an expert on studying abroad. I’ve been in my little London-bubble for the past three months and I may never come out. So I guess the first piece of advice I have for you is, don’t take everything you hear too seriously. I made that mistake once or twice. I panicked about sleeping in dirty hostels with creepy people lurking and waiting for me to leave so they could steal all my precious things. I panicked about bringing too many of this or that, or too little of others. Take the things your loved ones (and random bloggers) tell you, to heart, but don’t think that it’s all 100% true. It may be true for them, or me, but not necessarily you. I wish I had known that before leaving.
The second piece of advice I have (which is mostly directed toward girls or the fashionable guy… sorry) is – also along the lines of the last one – pack using your gut. I had so many people in my ear telling me that I wouldn’t need all the clothes that I wanted to bring and that I was being unrealistic with it. I let them talk me out of bringing things that I have genuinely missed. I came into this house with one suitcase and one big travel backpack. Everyone else came in with two huge suitcases and carry-on’s. There are guys in my house that have double the amount of clothing that I do, here. Obviously, you should be reasonable when packing because the space in your suitcase is valuable. Just listen to your gut while doing it. There are so many things that I wish that I had brought with me when I came, and then I ended up spending way more money on them here than I would have if I would have just brought them from home. — Another side note on packing, its really easy to buy toiletries here. Don’t waste too much space/weight on them.
Make sure you spend some time outside of your comfort zone and don’t spend too much time thinking about it. When I first arrived in London, I was basically tossed off the airplane (or so it felt) and left to my own devices. I had to take the underground from the airport to my house in Notting Hill. It ended up being ridiculously easy, but I panicked so much beforehand because I’m the most anxious person I’ve ever met. Now I take the underground multiple times a day, and still laugh to myself about how nervous I was at the beginning. Getting lost in London – or any of the other cities that I’ve visited while I’ve been here – has been one of the highlights of my trip. I’ve seen so many things that I never would have, had I not been completely turned around. So don’t worry about not knowing exactly how to get where you’re going because getting there is half the fun.
My last and final piece of advice for you is, travel. Travelling around Europe is so cheap and so easy. Yeah, I’ve had to wake up at 4am to catch an 8am flight on multiple occasions, but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I was worried about how I was going to pay for my travels but if you know how to do it, you can spend a weekend in any city you want for a reasonable price. Book your flights early, find a decent hostel and go! That’s all there is to it. Explore a place of the world that you’ve always wanted to see – or somewhere completely random. My favorite trip of all the trips I’ve taken this semester was to the one place that I had never really considered going before. Europe has a million different things to offer, and I promise you, there is never a dull moment.
I could sit here and go on and on about the do’s and don’t’s of studying abroad and getting ready to go abroad but for me, learning all of those things turned out to be some of the best life lessons I’ve ever experienced. The bottom line is – your semester/year/summer abroad is going to be the most amazing time of your life, that I can say with complete confidence for every single person. You will learn so much about yourself and the world that right now you have no idea. I don’t believe anyone could ever regret studying abroad. So if you’re going to take one thing from my blog, I’d hope its this; don’t spend too much time worrying because half of the things that you experience while abroad, good and bad, you’d never expect or be able to anticipate. So just make the best of every crazy situation and never regret a second of your time abroad because one day you’ll blink and you’ll only have a week left.